Learned Societies’ Group response to Professor Ken Muir’s education reform consultation

The Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish STEM Education (LSG) was pleased to respond to Professor Ken Muir’s consultation on the proposed replacement of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and reform of Education Scotland. Many of the themes covered by the response reflect those raised by the LSG in response to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). These include the importance of a coherent pupil journey, smooth progression from one stage to the next, and a move away from exam-driven curriculum design.

The LSG was disappointed that the OECD review did not give adequate focus to a number of key issues which continue to disproportionately affect STEM teaching and learning, including an enduring lack of confidence among primary teachers in delivering science teaching and the unacceptably high incidence of multi-course teaching. The LSG hopes that Professor Muir’s consultation will provide an opportunity to consider these issues in more detail and ensure they are not ignored as Scotland embarks on its programme of education reform in response to the OECD report’s recommendations. Only then will Scotland be able to fully realise its ambitions of becoming a STEM powerhouse.

While the LSG did not comment on the intricacies of institutional reform, it does believe the time is ripe to address the unclear, fragmented ownership of the curriculum which has characterised CfE’s governance from the outset. Of central importance is the need to further empower teachers to become effective curriculum-makers and take greater ownership of the curriculum development process. This can only happen if they are afforded better access to effective career-long professional learning (CLPL) – both subject-specific and more generally – and by strengthening the “middle” of the system. The LSG would also welcome a critical evaluation of the current inspection regime and whether there is scope for a more supportive quality-assurance system to help fulfil this function.